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No feedback on the test translation
Thread poster: Ilham Ahmadov

Ilham Ahmadov  Identity Verified
Azerbaijan
Local time: 05:52
Member
English to Azerbaijani
+ ...
May 3, 2013

Hi,

I had a couple of translation agencies who said they were looking for translators working in my pair and asked me to do the test translation. They sent me a 200 word sample,I translated it, but they never provided any feedback on the translation.

A month has already passed since I submitted the test and they justify themselves that this project is huge and it will take them time to review it. Is this plausible answer for a translation company who is in urgent need of translators working in the specific pair?

I believe they are a real translation agency, but I don't understand this approach! So, how to deal with this kind of situation when somebody approaches you with a test translation, but you are not sure whether it is for real or not? You can not possibly reject all the requests for sample translations because there may be serious clients among them. Your answers are very much appreciated!


 

Giuseppina Gatta, MA (Hons)
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
Are you new in the business? May 3, 2013

I ask this question since this is the norm. Do not expect feedback for your tests, they may come but it is probably in 5% of the cases.

Good Luck!
Giusi


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 22:52
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Teenagers testing bulbs May 3, 2013

I see some translation agencies as a certain type of teenagers unwillingly taken by their fathers (moms seldom go there) to a hardware or DIY store.

I wasn't, and my boys weren't of this type, we are all-round handymen and inventors. My girl would socialize with the staff, regardless of what the store is about. Yet some kids can't tell a screwdriver from a chisel.

I am referring to boys about 11-12 years old, of the latter type. They can't find anything interesting in the hardware store... until they see the lamps rack. They are tall enough to reach the lamp test socket, and discover that it's normal for people to test lamps. Nobody will complain, so they start testing all kinds of bulbs, and have lots of fun doing it. In most cases, their dad didn't go there to buy lamps, so when he's done shopping, both will go to the checkout and leave all the lamps there.

I see some translation agencies behaving like this. Time management gurus call it "the Activity Trap": it makes them feel 'busy hence useful' when there is no job in sight.


 

Shai Navé  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 04:52
Member
English to Hebrew
+ ...
You should develop a strict policy about free transaltion samples May 3, 2013

,..and if you ask me, don't provide a free translation samples/tests.
There are couple of very good reasons for that:
1. Why would one give his or her work for free? It doesn't make any business sense.
2. The wide variety of ways in which such requests can be abused: From scoring a real translation project for free to the "bait and switch" tactic in which they use your (good) sample to get the job and then send the real job to someone else, usually less competent and cheaper.
3a. Short translation tests are pretty much useless, they cannot be used to accurately judge one's ability, and the translators can quite easily abuse that system as well.
3b. Translation is not an exact science, thus "rating" it is a very subjective matter, and I'm referring here to good translations, not the ones who are too literal and incoherent to begin with. Do you know who is the reviewer? Can you be sure that they are competent enough to perform this task? And even if so, send one translation to three different reviewers and you will get three different opinions about it; some will "fail" it and others won't.

And these are just the ones out of the top of my head.

To your question, the excuses they gave you are probably just excuses and you are most likely never going to get your test "results" back. But that doesn't come as a huge surprise, as more often than not a free sample is a complete waste of time.

You can not possibly reject all the requests for sample translations because there may be serious clients among them. Your answers are very much appreciated!

A truly serious agency client will request a paid translation (usually part of the relevant project), respect your time and work by not requesting you for freebies, and are overall conducting themselves more professionally.

When deciding if to continue offering free tests, you should consider the value that you see in it versus the very probable risk that cases such as the ones you described here will reoccur into your decision making process.

You might also want to read the following post
http://www.proz.com/forum/business_issues/239987-trial_translations_for_soliciting_new_clients_for_customers.html


 

Ilham Ahmadov  Identity Verified
Azerbaijan
Local time: 05:52
Member
English to Azerbaijani
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Reply May 3, 2013

Giuseppina Gatta, MA (Hons) wrote:

I ask this question since this is the norm. Do not expect feedback for your tests, they may come but it is probably in 5% of the cases.

Good Luck!
Giusi


I have been in the industry for quite some time, but at the local level. Here at Proz it is different!


 

Ilham Ahmadov  Identity Verified
Azerbaijan
Local time: 05:52
Member
English to Azerbaijani
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Reply May 3, 2013

Shai Nave wrote:

,..and if you ask me, don't provide a free translation samples/tests.
There are couple of very good reasons for that:
1. Why would one give his or her work for free? It doesn't make any business sense.
2. The wide variety of ways in which such requests can be abused: From scoring a real translation project for free to the "bait and switch" tactic in which they use your (good) sample to get the job and then send the real job to someone else, usually less competent and cheaper.
3a. Short translation tests are pretty much useless, they cannot be used to accurately judge one's ability, and the translators can quite easily abuse that system as well.
3b. Translation is not an exact science, thus "rating" it is a very subjective matter, and I'm referring here to good translations, not the ones who are too literal and incoherent to begin with. Do you know who is the reviewer? Can you be sure that they are competent enough to perform this task? And even if so, send one translation to three different reviewers and you will get three different opinions about it; some will "fail" it and others won't.

And these are just the ones out of the top of my head.

To your question, the excuses they gave you are probably just excuses and you are most likely never going to get your test "results" back. But that doesn't come as a huge surprise, as more often than not a free sample is a complete waste of time.

You can not possibly reject all the requests for sample translations because there may be serious clients among them. Your answers are very much appreciated!

A truly serious agency client will request a paid translation (usually part of the relevant project), respect your time and work by not requesting you for freebies, and are overall conducting themselves more professionally.

When deciding if to continue offering free tests, you should consider the value that you see in it versus the very probable risk that cases such as the ones you described here will reoccur into your decision making process.

You might also want to read the following post
http://www.proz.com/forum/business_issues/239987-trial_translations_for_soliciting_new_clients_for_customers.html


I can infer from your post it is not worthwhile to do free test translations! Thank you very much.


 

Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:52
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
It's a numbers game May 3, 2013

I do all tests I'm asked to do for agencies with whom I have already agreed terms of business. Some will reply after the test, some won't. I wouldn't say it was quite as bad as a 5% reply ratio but perhaps I'd say that 4 out of 10 either don't reply, or reply that you've passed and then never subsequently send you work (which is the same thing in my book).
Those that don't reply are saying something about their business practices which probably wouldn't make you that motivated to work with them anyway.

However, most of the time, those that do prove to be lucrative clients that completely justify the 'marketing cost' to me of having spent an hour of my time on the test.

The way I see it is that if 6 out of 10 reply, I have to do those 10 tests to get the 6 replies. If I were you, I'd carry on doing the tests and see every agency that doesn't reply as bringing you one step closer to the potentially lucrative clients that do.

There are lots of people here who advocate not doing free tests but really... how much does an hour of your time cost you to show a client how good you are? Don't you prefer your clients to want to separate the wheat from the chaff (or indeed make sure that you are not an identity thief)? Most other businesses have marketing spends, branding campaigns, press agencies and telephone and field sales forces to contend with to get their products/services to market. Doing a free test pales in comparison.


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 22:52
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I forgot to mention... May 3, 2013

... that many agencies will ask you to take a test before anything, later tell you that you have passed, and only then reveal that their maximum rate is about one-third of what you usually charge.

So price might be a good issue to get resolved before you take a free test. However many of these agencies will try to dodge it, saying that the rates they'll pay you will depend on how you score on the test. Baloney...


 

Ilham Ahmadov  Identity Verified
Azerbaijan
Local time: 05:52
Member
English to Azerbaijani
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
reply May 3, 2013

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

... that many agencies will ask you to take a test before anything, later tell you that you have passed, and only then reveal that their maximum rate is about one-third of what you usually charge.

So price might be a good issue to get resolved before you take a free test. However many of these agencies will try to dodge it, saying that the rates they'll pay you will depend on how you score on the test. Baloney...


Thank yoy very much for your valuable comments.


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 03:52
English to Polish
+ ...
That's rude but it happens May 3, 2013

Ilham Ahmadov wrote:

Hi,

I had a couple of translation agencies who said they were looking for translators working in my pair and asked me to do the test translation. They sent me a 200 word sample,I translated it, but they never provided any feedback on the translation.


That's rude but it happens.

A month has already passed since I submitted the test and they justify themselves that this project is huge and it will take them time to review it. Is this plausible answer for a translation company who is in urgent need of translators working in the specific pair?


It's not plausible, and the claims are inconsistent. However, the explanation might be organisational mess or lack of caring, neither of which are desirable qualities in somebody who gives you jobs and controls the purse.

I believe they are a real translation agency, but I don't understand this approach! So, how to deal with this kind of situation when somebody approaches you with a test translation, but you are not sure whether it is for real or not? You can not possibly reject all the requests for sample translations because there may be serious clients among them. Your answers are very much appreciated!


Don't reject test translations. But don't sweat 200 word samples, either. You'll waste more time worrying than you did working. It's a business risk, just like selling cakes and letting people have some before they buy. You will never be seriously harmed economically by that kind of thing, it's only the emotional damage, of which you have some control. Not total but some. Just try to relax and wave it away. But make sure to tell the agency that their conduct is not appreciated when they contact you again.


 

Sone-Ngole Alvin Ngole  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:52
English to French
+ ...
"Mail box" agencies May 3, 2013

Ilham Ahmadov wrote:

Hi,

I had a couple of translation agencies who said they were looking for translators working in my pair and asked me to do the test translation. They sent me a 200 word sample,I translated it, but they never provided any feedback on the translation.


I have noticed this practice with some "potential clients"
Actually, the test translation you did was most probably a test translation their own "potential client" asked them to do. In that case, they simply act as a mail box. Your translation was probably sent to your potential client's potential client as though it were your potential client that did it.

Two or more scenari are possible:
1) End client is satisfied, awards job to your potential client, and potential client awards job to you
2) End client is satisfied, awards job to your potential client, and potential client AWARDS JOB TO SOMEONE WITH LOWER RATES THAN YOURS
3) End client is not satisfied, does not award job to your potential client, and potential client...

Now, some good agencies do actually give short text to translate in order to evaluate your capacity. You may need to remind them so the can give you feedback. That was the case with one of my most recent clients.


 

KateKaminski
Local time: 02:52
German to English
Do the test translation if you have a spare 30 minutes May 3, 2013

It's as good a way to spend your spare time as any other. It might lead to nothing and amount to the same as doing the crossword puzzle in the paper. OR it could be the start of a lucrative new business relationship.

I would only consider doing a test that took me 30 minutes or less in total (i.e. fairly short and within my comfort zone) and if I did not have something more important to do. Do your best work but take a relaxed approach as you don't really know the client's motives.

I do think it is unprofessional and rude if they do not provide any feedback - you have given some of your time for free at their request, so the least they can do is write a short email to say thank you and a brief assessment of your work.


 

Ilham Ahmadov  Identity Verified
Azerbaijan
Local time: 05:52
Member
English to Azerbaijani
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you May 4, 2013

Thank you all for your very valuable answers. I now feel kind of divided whether to do or not to do this thing. Somehow I need to learng how to filter these unprofessional agencies, but I am yet to figure this out.

[Edited at 2013-05-04 04:13 GMT]


 

Shai Navé  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 04:52
Member
English to Hebrew
+ ...
Several other reasons why to avoid any free work May 4, 2013

I don't mean to challenge what others have said in support of providing free translation tests because it obviously works for them, however:
1. I don't think that free samples equate marketing. As I see it, marketing, branding, networking are all things that a translator has to do because a translator is a business, and as such needs to put him or herself out there for people to find. Marketing is somewhat of a proactive and focused effort with the goal of reaching clients in one's targeted market segment, while providing free samples is a passive and reactive effort that is sometimes involving unknown entities.

2. I disagree with the cake sampling example. Translation is not a commodity. One doesn't produce a certain amount of words at the beginning of each month and now has to sell them before they will get rotten or lose value by the end of the month, when a new "batch" will leave the production line. While it might be a good idea to promote one's product by offering samples, it doesn't really apply to any custom work such as translation. There is nothing wrong in providing samples of one's previous work if one can share them. It is even possible to create a portfolio based on the translation of texts in one specialty areas that are not protected by copyrights and use them to showcase one's skills. However, and if to use the cake example, asking for a free translation sample is like entering a bakery and asking for a custom made cake, although small in size, so one could "rate" it and decide if he or she will consider buying future cakes in this bakery. If you go into a restaurant and offered a sample by the owner, that's great. But have you ever stepped into a restaurant and demanded to get a specific dish, albeit small, for free so you could taste it and decide if you shall continue eating there now or in the future? Do you ever thought of asking a lawyer to to a small preliminary and "easy" proceeding so you could assess his or her skills and decide if to hire them? Can you imagine anyone agreeing to this even if you did? And the list of examples can go on and on.

3. Offering one's core work for free devalues one's services and position. I think that it is an unprofessional approach by the agencies, and most agencies who ask for such samples are indeed a second or third hand in the project pipeline, and they (as probably several others agencies) submit that translation to their "client", probably not bothering even to look at one's sample to determine if there is a chance for "future collaboration". They don't mind wasting one's time, after-all, it doesn't cost them anything and except for sending a few emails with some files it doesn't take them a lot of effort or work either. Also, if one offers one client X amounts of words for free, how can one charge a second client for the same thing? It sends an unprofessional message.

4. I also don't think that sending free samples and not getting a reply back should be considered an unavoidable business risk. Spending time on creating a quote for a specific project and not hearing back; making an educated decision about one's career path that eventually does not pan-out as imagined; working with clients after doing a proper due diligence, giving them a one month credit line, and finding out at the end they went bankrupt or just don't pay are all risks. But spending time and providing one's core work - that one is otherwise charging clients for, clients who apparently were just not "brave" enough to demand a portion for free - with no specific project is in my opinion an unnecessary risk. It might seem that each sample does not take too long, but it accumulates, especially if one is getting a lot of such requests, and these accumulated time and effort eventually become an issue. A lot of businesses are having a hard time because they provide freebies or neglect to consider the accumulated financial and personal impact that "lending a hand" has on the health of their business and themselves as professionals.

And to sum up some other points I have on this subject: How to Give Away Freebies--and Not Bankrupt Your Business

@José Henrique
You also forgoticon_smile.gif the case in which all terms were agreed in advance, but if and when an actual project is at hand the agency offers it for a fraction of the agreed rate (and translators should use the term FEE and not rate anyway), and with complete disregard to any previously agreed term, claiming that "our client has a very limited budget for this project and they need it super-urgently this time" (which seems to always be the case for them), trusting that most translators will yield after already being so heavily invested in this relationship (otherwise they probably wouldn't have jumped all those hoops to begin with).

[Edited at 2013-05-04 08:21 GMT]


 

NataliaAnne  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 22:52
Portuguese to English
Sample translations May 4, 2013

I agree with Marie-Helene that it’s a positive sign when agencies want to check quality prior to working with a translator. An alternative to test translations is having a few sample translations on file to offer agencies. I’ve found most agencies are happy with this and it saves me time, particularly when I get a request during a busy period.

 
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